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Peres Receives a Warm Welcome from French Officials in Paris

September 11, 1992
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Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres this week received an exceptionally warm welcome in Paris, where he met with top French leaders.

French President Francois Mitterrand held a 3###-hour meeting with the visiting foreign minister on Thursday, during which he indicated gratification at the changes represented by the new government in Jerusalem, Peres told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency afterward.

He said Mitterrand told him: “You are here as the representative of a friendly state and also as a personal friend.”

The French president is due to make his second official visit to Israel by the end of this year, after becoming the first French head of state to visit Israel, in 1982.

The French wish to play a more active role in the Middle East peace process has found a response in Jerusalem, which, in a shift from the policy of the previous Likud administration, is seeking greater European participation in the Middle East multilateral negotiations.

Mitterrand and Peres agreed on a stepped-up role for France in the negotiations. France next month hosts the multilateral talks on economic development, which last convened in Brussels.

Peres raised with Mitterrand the idea of a bank for Middle East development, along the lines of the London-based bank set up to help countries in the former Communist bloc. A striking difference is that some countries in the Middle East are wealthy enough to contribute to such a banking facility.

Israel’s foreign minister put forward the view that peace could not be dictated in an area torn by war for decades. Rather, it should follow the step-by-step pattern set by France and Germany after World War II.

As a first step, economic agreements would link countries formerly at war.

Mitterrand said that France and Germany would invest in development of transportation systems within Israel and then between Israel and those Arab states that would ultimately – if the peace negotiations succeed – make peace with Israel.

On a bilateral basis, France would help Israel in seeking to overcome its water shortage.

Mitterrand agreed also on the principle of a joint French-Israeli industrial applied research and development project, with each country investing $125 million to subsidize research.

Peres also met with Defense Minister Pierre Joxe. The two agreed to normalize relations between the defense establishments of their respective countries.

Peres became the first Israeli Cabinet minister in almost 25 years to be received by senior officials of UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, which was previously a haven for anti- Israel rhetoric.

He paid a call on the organization’s secretary-general, Federico Mayor Zaragoza.

Mayor found interest in an idea put forward by Peres under which UNESCO would convene a conference of intellectuals and scholars from Israel, the Arab countries, Spain and other lands to shape a future of peace in the Middle East and a “new golden age” in the Mediterranean area.

The Israeli foreign minister was due to leave Paris on Friday.

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